You’ve seen the headlines: “Manufacturers Are Concerned Skilled Labor Shortage Could Stymie Innovation” is just one example.

According to a recent National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) survey, manufacturers are worried about the possibility of a “full-blown workforce crisis.” 58 percent of respondents anticipate hiring more workers during the next year. Over 28 percent said they were forced to turn down new business due to a labor shortage.

Sound familiar?

It’s no longer possible to attract and retain skilled workers without making a conscious effort. Here are a few strategies to help your business stay competitive in the workforce.

Take Control of Your Image

Boring. Dangerous. Dirty. Those are the preconceptions lots of people bring to manufacturing work. Some may view the work as unstable due to the headlines made by plant closures. They might think opportunity for advancement is limited and wages are low.

If you want to change those false impressions, cultivate a strategy to share your story via social media, plant tours, and open houses. Launch an annual event in honor of Manufacturing Day (the first Friday of October) to involve the community in your success and let them know what it’s really like to work there. This is the flip side of most marketing efforts: in addition to selling your product, you’ve got to sell your workplace.

Upskill Workers

Give workers the opportunity to advance with internal training programs. Their upward trajectory will keep them loyal and engaged, and will free up entry -level jobs for less skilled workers.

Strategic Workforce Planning

Take a focused long-term approach to training and hiring by adopting Strategic Workforce Planning, or SWP. This is the practice of aligning HR processes with your company’s business objectives. This can include hyper-targeting candidate pools and utilizing technology to make the recruiting process more data-driven.

Partner with Colleges and Schools

Vocational education and outreach are powerful recruiting tools. Many students may have overlooked the opportunities presented by the manufacturing industry entirely. Help a local school develop manufacturing-related curriculum and make a generation of kids aware of the job possibilities.

Outreach to Veterans

The veteran unemployment rate was 3.8 percent in August 2018. Make HR recruiting efforts directly to this community, emphasizing the training and advancement opportunities.

Outsource Fabrication

Outsourcing certain processes may help economize your production costs will diminishing your needs for skilled labor.

Automate Manufacturing Operations

While automation can be an expensive undertaking, you can adopt it gradually. Examine your processes for opportunities to streamline with automation.

Retain Employees

Put at least as much effort into retaining your existing employees as you do towards recruiting new ones. Searching, hiring and training are all very expensive. Invest in your current workforce by keeping them happy with competitive compensation, responsive management, a safe work place, and attractive benefits.